Google and French media have reached a landmark agreement to pay publishers for their contents. The web search giant and APIG, which represents French media said on Thursday in a joint statement that they have agreed on principles for how news outlets should be compensated for their online publications being used as search results by Google.
“This agreement establishes a framework within which Google will negotiate individual licensing agreements with IPG certified publishers within APIG’s membership, while reflecting the principles of the law. These agreements will cover publishers’ neighboring rights, and allow for participation in News Showcase, a new licensing program recently launched by Google to provide readers access to enriched content,” the statement said.
Controversy has trailed the financial relationship between Google and publishers for years, as news outlets seek due compensation for their contents being used by the Silicon-based company to answer search queries and serve ads.
Under the 2019 European Union copyright laws, search engines and social media platforms are required to share revenue with publishers if their contents are displayed. EU members have June 7 deadline to implement the law. Given its longstanding take on the Google/publishers’ financial tussle, France swiftly translated the copyright laws into national laws, becoming the first EU nation to do so. Other EU member states are expected to do the same before the June 7 deadline.
Based on the new rule, Google will negotiate licensing agreements with individual publishers. The agreement said the “pay” will be determined by criteria such as the contribution of the newspaper to political and general information, the daily volume of publications or the monthly internet audience.
Sebastien Missoffe, Managing Director of Google France said the agreement proves that Google is committed to upholding publishers’ right to earn from their online content.
“This agreement is a major step for Google. It confirms our commitment to press editors within the framework of French law on neighboring rights. It opens up new perspectives for our partners, and we are happy to contribute to their development in the digital age and support journalism,” he said.
Last year, Google doled out $1 billion for a news-support program, News Showcase, designed to help struggling newsrooms. The program was announced months after the search engine operator halved adsense earnings for publishers citing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on businesses which potentially reduced ads. Google has signed agreements with about 450 media outlets across more than 12 countries since then.
However, the France agreement has set a trajectory for other countries in and outside Europe, and it may birth controversies that will disturb Google and social media platforms.
Australia has been working on a law that will force Google and social media platforms to pay publishers. Google and Facebook have dominated the advertising space for years now, serving ads through publications and paying publishers little to nothing. Critics believe that the situation leaves publishers reeling on the barest minimum.
The new legislation means Facebook and Google will have to bargain with newsrooms either individually or collectively – and to enter arbitration if the parties can’t reach an agreement within three months, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which put out the legislation said.
Google said its services will be halted in Australia if the proposed legislation takes effect.
“If this version of the Code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Google Australian managing director Mel Silva told lawmakers. “That would be a bad outcome not just for us, but for the Australian people, media diversity and small businesses who use Google Search.”
According to Silva, the major part of the controversy is that the proposed Code “would require payments simply for links and snippets just to news results in Search.” This is so because “the free service we offer Australian users, and our business model, has been built on the ability to link freely between websites,” she explained.
Both Google and Facebook have opposed the code, saying it will have a negative impact on how their services are served in Australia.
Facebook’s vice president of public policy for Asia, Simon Milner said the company could ultimately block news content in Australia.
But Prime Minister Scott Morris said the threat to halt services in Australian will change nothing.
“Let me be clear, Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government and that’s how things work here in Australia and people who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. We don’t respond to threats,” he said in a press briefing.
Although Australia’s proposed legislation is a bit different from France’s law, they both show that many countries are becoming more determined to confront the American big tech companies. Google is proposing that it’d be allowed to use the News Showcase to pay publishers in Australia, as it already has seven publishers in its payroll in the country under the program.
While antimonopoly advocates believe Australian proposed legislation will encourage competition by giving other players equal chance in the country, and also uplift the livelihood of publishers, Milner fears it would hurt the World Wide Web.
Quoting inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, he told Australian lawmakers: “Sir Tim Berners-Lee said, this precedent set by this law could make the web unworkable around the world.”